The tie-dyed shirts, shorts, socks, and hats from the label Long Dawn Emily—by Emily Dawn Long—don’t have the same chaotic swirls of traditional Deadhead garb. Instead, the pieces have a more sentimental, earthy touch. On one drop—Dawn Long refers to them as “drops”, not collections, so there is no pressure to constantly produce—there is a grassy incarnation of the iconic smiley logo T-shirt, now green with a wonky grin. Another standout piece is a pair of trendy tangerine bike shorts with burgundy wine glass imprints, and a pair of clingy cream knit pants boasting groovy flower outlines, as if scrawled by a child. Each item is created in Dawn Long’s apartment in downtown New York City, a process that she describes as therapeutic and personal. “Everything touches my hands,” she says, also noting that from the sourcing to the dyeing, the label is all a “one-woman show.”
Dawn Long’s fascination with tie-dye began when she was a child. “I remember I was wearing Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls and I was eating a bunch of berries, which I got all over them,” says Dawn Long. “So I started smoothing berries into the overalls—I stained it, and made this cool thing.” Her love for the funky art of tincture was reignited last year when she was tie-dying with her friend’s children. “I was like, ‘This is great! I should do this again,’” she says. “I wanted to make more of it.” Shortly after, she began by making personalized pieces and giving them to friends. Eventually, she noticed that everyone in her circle was wearing a tie-dye piece by her, and then decided to launch a label.
It also comes at a time when tie-dye has splattered itself across runways over the past few seasons. The DIY practice has appeared in a more traditional, hippie-inspired guise at Collina Strada; in ethereal, midnight hues at Proenza Schouler; and even as mysterious Northern Light blotches at Prada. But for Dawn Long, it’s very much about dedicated, one-on-one involvement. Her tie-dye process volleys into two different styles: the airbrushed technique seen at beach boardwalks, and another method that results in a hand-drawn effect. Plus, while tie-dye has traditionally used Procion dyes that boast an otherworldly brightness—some sites recommend using a face mask while using them—Dawn Long opts for a natural route by using vegetable dyes. To really hone in on the zero-waste concept, she uses leftovers from group dinners, something that started after noticing sweet potato scraps during a meal that her friend, Mission Chinese chef Danny Bowien, was preparing. “I simmered them and cooked them down and used them to dye,” she notes. Other sources of produce are various juice shops in the Lower East Side. “They are usually about to get rid of some of their remnants of carrots or celery, so I go and ask for that because they are going to throw it away anyway.” Some vegetables result in unlikely, vibrant dyes: an avocado pit gives a light pink hue, while red cabbage offers a shade of gray-tinged periwinkle.
Dawn Long’s natural approach to her label runs deep, with the use of deadstock or vintage pieces for fabric. “These are items that have already been made and are sitting in warehouses in New York, Paris, and Los Angeles,” Some of the best finds include ’60s-era T-shirts from Los Angeles and Hanes T-shirts from the ’90s. “I am purchasing pieces that won’t be purchased by giant wholesalers and I am reinterpreting them in a way that it is completely fresh and is my new take on something that is a basic and classic.” It’s not always about creating something new for Dawn Long, either. Her friends will often bring her something stained and have her transform it with dyes. “I love when people give me a piece that they already have, that maybe they would consider ruined because something got on it, and I can remake it into something else,” says Dawn Long. “I just give it a new life, whereas someone would have gotten rid of something if there was a spot on it.”
New York’s Buzziest Tie-Dye Label Uses Your Juicery’s Leftover Carrots
Originally Appeared on Vogue